The Mariners take on their trouble with the cheese

PEORIA, Az. — Someone with the Mariners said the other day, "€œI bet we were the worst fastball-hitting team last season."€

I asked STATS LLC to look it up: The Mariners weren’€™t good, but they weren’€™t the worst, either, batting .267 against the fastball, 19th in the majors.

When I reported back to the Mariners person, he said, "€œYeah, but I bet we took more fastballs for strikes than any team."€

Once again, I put STATS LLC on the case. Turns out the Mariners ranked ninth in fastballs taken for strikes at 20.5 percent (the Red Sox were first at 23.1 percent).

Still, my friend with the Mariners had a point.

The M’€™s should be better against the fastball this season — maybe much better, considering the additions of Nelson Cruz, Seth Smith, Justin Ruggiano and Rickie Weeks.

All but Smith bat right-handed, bringing much-needed balance to the Seattle lineup. And all but Smith crushed fastballs last season.

The four combined to hit .320 against the fastball, well above the .272 major-league average. Ruggiano hit .371, Weeks .336, Cruz .330 and Smith .268 (none in fewer than 124 at-bats.)

Combine those four with Robinson Cano (.329) and Kyle Seager (.323), and the M’€™s seemingly are onto something.

The last time the Mariners had a league-average offense was 2007. This could be the season that changes.